Friday, June 20, 2014
Iraqi hydrocarbon prize of U.S. invasion in danger
By Nicola Nasser*
Excluding “boots on the ground” and leaving combat missions to local and regional “partners,” President Barak Obama and his administration say the United States keeps “all options on the table” to respond militarily to the terrorists’ threat to “American interests” in Iraq, which are now in “danger.”
Similarly, former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on TV screens and in print has recently urged western governments to “put aside the differences of the past and act now” and to intervene militarily in
the future” because “we do have interests in this.” Iraq
Both men refrained from indicating what are exactly the “American” and “western” interests in
that need military intervention to defend, but the major prize of their
in 2003 was the country’s hydrocarbon assets. There lies their “interests. Iraq
On June 13 however, Obama hinted to a possible major “disruption” in Iraqi oil output and urged “other producers in the Gulf” to be “able to pick up the slack.”
The United States has already moved the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, escorted by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun, from the northern Arabian Sea into the Arabian Gulf (Persian according to Iran) “to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” according to Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, on June 14. Media is reporting that
U.S. intelligence units and
air reconnaissance are already operating in . Iraq
The unfolding collapse of the
proxy government in Baghdad has cut short a
process of legalizing the
de-nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry in , which became within reach
with the latest electoral victory of the Iraqi prime minister since 2006, Noori
Anti-American armed resistance to the
proxy ruling regime in ,
especially the Baath-led backbone, is on record as seeking to return to the
status quo ante with regard to the country’s strategic hydrocarbon assets, i.e.
De-nationalization and privatization of the Iraqi oil and gas industry began with the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003. Al-Maliki for eight years could not pass a hydrocarbons law through the parliament. Popular opposition and a political system based on sectarian distribution of power and “federal” distribution of oil revenues blocked its adoption. Ruling by political majority instead by sectarian consensus was al-Maliki’s declared hope to enact the law.
Al-Maliki’s plans towards this end together with his political ambitions for a third term were cut short by the fall to armed opposition on this June 10 of Mosul, the capital of the northern Ninawa governorate and second only to Baghdad as Iraq’s largest metropolitan area.
Three days on, with the fighting moving on to the gates of
Baghdad, “the most
important priority for
right now is to secure its capital and oil infrastructure,” a Stratfor analysis
on June 11 concluded. Baghdad
The raging war in
now will determine whether
Iraqi hydrocarbons are a national asset or multinational loot. Any Iraq U.S. military support to the regime it installed
should be viewed within this context. Meanwhile this national wealth is still
being pillaged as spoils of war. Baghdad
Al-Maliki is not now preoccupied even with maintaining Iraq as OPEC’s No. 2 oil producer, but with maintaining a level of oil output sufficient to bring in enough revenues to finance a defensive war that left his capital besieged and his government with southern Iraq only to rule, may be not for too long.
Even this modest goal is in doubt. Al-Maliki is left with oil exports from the south only, the disruption of which is highly possible any time now.
Worries that fighting would spread to the southern city of
Basra or have already sent oil prices to
nine-month high on Thursday. Baghdad
Legalizing the de-nationalization of Iraqi hydrocarbon industry has thus become more elusive than it has ever been since 2003.
On June 1 forty two years ago the process of the nationalization of the hydrocarbon industry kicked off in
. Now Iraq is
an open field for looting its only strategic asset. Iraq
On April 15 last year the CNN, reviewing “The Iraq war, 10 years on,” reported: “Yes, the Iraq War was a war for oil, and it was a war with winners: Big Oil.”
“Before the 2003 invasion,
domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil
companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly
dominated by foreign firms,” the CNN report concluded, indicating that, “From
ExxonMobil and Chevron to BP and Shell, the West's have
set up shop in Iraq .
So have a slew of American oil service companies, , the Texas-based firm Dick Cheney ran before becoming
George W. Bush's running mate in 2000. Iraq
The international rush for the Iraqi “black gold” by trans-national oil and gas corporations is at its height with no national law or competent central authority to regulate it.
Nothing changed since except that the “rush” was accelerating and the de-nationalization process was taking roots, squandering the bloody sacrifices of the Iraqis over eighty two years to uproot the foreign hold on their major strategic asset. The ongoing fighting is threatening to cut this process short.
Tip of iceberg
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in
Iraq has been awarding hydrocarbon contracts to
foreign firms independently without reference to the central government in . Baghdad
Since early 2014, it has been pumping crude to
own independent pipeline built last December. On this June 4, Turkey Turkey
and the KRG announced the signing of a 50-year deal to export Iraqi oil from
Kurdistan via . Turkey
deputy prime minister, threatened legal action against firms that purchased
"smuggled oil" via the Turkish-KRG arrangements; he accused of
“greed” and trying “to lay (its) hands on cheap Iraqi oil. Turkey
The dispute between
on the one hand and Turkey
and the KRG on the other is only the surfacing tip of the iceberg of the “gold rush–style” looting of ’s
national wealth. Iraq
One of the main priorities of al-Maliki all along has been to legalize the de-nationalization and privatization process.
Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, wrote a few months before al-Maliki assumed his first premiership that American and British governments made sure the candidates for prime minister knew what their first priority had to be: To pass a law legalizing the return of the foreign multinationals. This would be the vital biggest prize of the
2003 invasion. U.S.
Al-Maliki is the right man to secure a pro-privatization government in
Thomas L. Friedman described him in the New York Times on this June 4 as “our
guy,” “an American-installed autocrat” and a “big gift” the Baghdad U.S. occupation “left behind in .” Iraq
Various drafts of hydrocarbon privatization laws failed to gain consensus among the proxy sectarian parties to the U.S.-engineered “political process” and the “federal” entities of
U.S.-drafted constitution. Iraq
Al-Maliki’s government endorsed the first draft of a privatization law in February 2007 and on August 28, 2011 endorsed an amended draft which the parliament has yet to adopt.
Iraqi trade unions, amid popular protests, opposed and fought the privatization draft laws. Their offices were raided, computers confiscated, equipment smashed and their leaders arrested and prosecuted. Nonetheless, the parliament could not pass the law.
Al-Maliki government began awarding contracts to international oil and gas giants without a law in place. They are illegal contracts, but valid as long as there is a pro-privatization government in
Former British and
leaders of the invasion of ,
Tony Blair and George Bush junior, were on record to deny that the invasion had
anything to do with oil, but the U.S. President Barak Obama has just refuted
their claim. Iraq
On last May 16, Obama signed an Executive Order to extend the national emergency with respect to
for one year. His predecessor
Bush signed this “order” for the first time on May 22, 2003 “to
deal with the … threat to the national security and foreign policy of the Iraq United States posed by obstacles to the continued
reconstruction of .” Iraq
Details of Bush’s Executive Order (EO) No. 13303 are still kept out of media spotlight. It declared that future legal claims on
wealth constitute “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security
and foreign policy of the .” United
Section 1(b) eliminates all judicial process for “all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein, and proceeds, obligations or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof, and interests therein, in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the
States, or that are or hereafter come within the
possession or control of persons.” United
EO 13303 was rubber-stamped by the UN Security Council Resolution No. 1483, which protected the U.S.-controlled governmental institutions in
Muttitt wrote in August 2012: “In 2011, after nearly nine years of war and occupation,
finally left .
In their place, Big Oil is now present in force.” Iraq
“Big Oil” is now the only guarantor of the survival of the
U.S. proxy government in , but the survival of “Big Oil” itself
is now threatened by the escalating and rapidly expanding armed opposition. Baghdad
Obama said the “threats” and “obstacles” to U.S, interests in
Iraq have not
changed eleven years after the invasion; has not enacted yet a
hydrocarbon law to legalize the privatization of its oil and gas industry. Iraq
The developments of the last week in
Obama’s renewal of EO 13303. The Iraq U.S. war
is not over and it is not won yet. Hence Obama’s recent extension of the
national emergency with respect to Iraq for one year. Iraq
its restricted independence in 1932, the nationalization of Iraqi oil wealth
was the national and popular battle cry for complete sovereignty. It is now the
battle cry of the armed opposition. Iraq
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Antagonizing Palestinians, Australia’s linguistic blunder snowballs
By Nicola Nasser*
Reacting to antagonized Palestinian snowballing protests to her government’s decision on June 5 to reverse a 47-year old bipartisan consensus on describing eastern
as “occupied,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on June 13 denied any “change in
the Australian government’s position.” Jerusalem
On June 5, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis in a statement said: ''The description of
Jerusalem as 'Occupied East Jerusalem' is a term freighted with
pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.''
The new Australian terminology provoked Jordan, the third largest importer of Australian sheep in the Middle East, to summon Australia's charge d'affaires, John Feakes, to convey its “concern” because “The Australian government's decision violates international law and resolutions that consider east Jerusalem as an integral part of all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.”
Similarly, the Australian Representative in Ramallah, Tom Wilson, was summoned by the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey “deep concern” because Brandis’ remarks “contradict all international resolutions.” They requested “official clarification.”
Bishop’s “no change” statement came in response. It was followed on June 14 by Prime Minister Tony Abbott who said, while on a trip to
America, that his government had made only a “terminological
Abbot two days earlier stated that the
(OPT) are in “truth … disputed territories." Occupied
“I think we just call the West Bank, ‘the
West Bank,’ as a geographical entity without adding any
adjectives to it, whether ‘occupied’ [the Palestinian position] or ‘disputed’
[the Israeli position]. We’ll just call it what it is, which is ‘the West Bank.’,” he told the Tablet. However, this is not
official yet, he said.
“There has been no change in the Australian government’s position on the legal status of the
Territories, including East Jerusalem,” Bishop “clarified” in her statement. She
was not convincing. The credibility of Bishop’s and Abbot’s denial of “change”
could hardly be plausible.
It is a “radical change in the Australian position on
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said. The head of the Palestinian delegation
to Palestine Canberra, Izzat Abdulhadi, said ’s new
stance is “very provocative.” Australia
On June 12, Arab and Islamic ambassadors from 18 countries, including
Egypt and Indonesia, protested
to Australia's Department of
Foreign Affairs in . Canberra
The Australian on June 10 reported from
Jerusalem that the 57-member OIC will hold a joint
emergency meeting this month with the 22-member Arab League to decide their response to ’s
“terminology” declaration. Australia
Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi sent Bishop a “letter of protest” requesting “official clarification,” his deputy Ahmad bin Hilli said last Monday.
Palestinians are on record to invoke the multi-billion annual Australian agricultural exports to the member states in the discussions. Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters last Friday that “we will work very hard with them … to maintain the trade,” but so far his government has shown no signs to that effect.
Bishop’s and Abbot’s “no change” statements tried to imply that their country’s policy has not changed and that if there was a change it is a linguistic one only.
Either case the change in “terminology” serves neither Australian nor Palestinian interests. Coming ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to
summer, to be the first ever sitting Israeli premier to visit , it serves only as a free of charge
welcoming present. Canberra
However, coming on the 47th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory in eastern Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip and in 2014, which the United Nations proclaimed an International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Australian “change of language” was “absolutely disgraceful and shocking,” according to the member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hanan Ashrawi.
“Such inflammatory and irresponsible statements … are not only in blatant violation of international law and global consensus, but are also lethal in any pursuit of peace and toxic to any attempt at enacting a global rule of law,” Ashrawi was quoted as saying by the Times of Israel on June 6.
In fact, describing the Palestinian territories, eastern
inclusive, as “occupied” is not only a Palestinian position. Jerusalem
The Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem has not been recognized by the international community and all 193 countries of the UN, including the
to have their embassies in Jerusalem because it
would imply their recognition of the city as ’s capital. Israel
Published by The Guardian on this June 11, Ben Saul wrote: “Calling east
‘occupied’ simply recognizes the
near-universal legal status quo, namely that it is not sovereign Israeli
“Declaring that east
will not be described as ‘occupied’ implies that rejects the application
of international humanitarian law … The term "occupation" is
therefore not pejorative or judgmental.” Saul said, adding that “ Australia Australia’s new view … corrodes the
international rule of law and violates Australia’s
international law obligations” in accordance with the Geneva
conventions to which both Australia
are signatories. Israel
The UN Security Council Resolution 478 on August 20, 1980 censured “in the strongest terms the enactment by Israel of the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem,” affirmed “that the enactment of the ‘basic law’ by Israel constitutes a violation of international law” and determined “that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the recent ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”
Ninety UNSC resolutions, let alone 40 others vetoed by the
rule accordingly. Now U.S. Australia
only other nation that joins and supports in its
violation of all these resolutions. Aside from Israel Israel,
it is also the only nation to change its language on the . Palestinian Occupied Territories
Australian linguistics in context
The Palestinian people are not known for their short memory. They view the Australian government’s “terminological clarification” in the context of the country’s recent pro-Israel changes of policy as well as in
historical anti-Palestinian policies. Australia
Last month, Ambassador Sharma met in
Jerusalem with the Israeli Minister of Housing Uri Ariel, who is
in charge of the illegal construction of the colonial settlements in the OPT.
In January this year, while on an official visit to Israel, Foreign Minister Bishop told the Times of Israel that she isn’t convinced that Israeli construction of illegal settlements in OPT is a violation of international law, and called international boycotts of these settlements “anti-Semitic” and “Hypocritical beyond belief.”
failed to join 158 nations who supported a UN General Assembly resolution
calling for an end to Israeli settlements or to join 160 countries which
supported another resolution calling on to “comply scrupulously” with the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Israel
In November 2012, Australia abstained from supporting the UNGA recognition of Palestine as a “non-member observer state” by a vote of 138 to 9, rendering PM Abbot’s latest “clarification” that Australia still “strongly” supports the “two-state solution” a hollow statement.
Quoted by Emeritus Professor Peter Boyce AO, President of the Australia Institute of International Affairs in
Tasmania, a 2010 study found that 78% of
Australians were opposed to Israel’s
settlements policy and only 22% thought Jerusalem
should be recognized as ’s
capital. More recently, at the time of the 2012 General Assembly vote on
Palestinian non-member observer State status, 51% of Australians thought their
country should vote “Yes” and only 15% “No.” Israel
Australia has had an important role in the
establishment of the Israeli state” and it “stood alone among western governments in
its uncritical alignment with ,”
Professor Boyce wrote. Israel
Certainly Boyce had history in mind.
Australia in its capacity as the Chairman of the UN General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on helped to push through the UN Partition Plan on
November 29, 1947. It was the first UN member state to vote in favor of Israeli
statehood and the first to grant Palestine Israel
de-jure recognition when the
recognized it de-facto only. U.S. Israel
was also the first Middle East country with which established diplomatic
relations in 1949. Australia
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. email@example.com